Apps

Tools of My Dad Day: Waze for the iPhone

Since my kids have gone back to school I've been giving a lot of thought to the tools that I use every day. This is the first in (maybe, hopefully) a series of the things that make my weekday life easier. Not all of them will be unique or even particularly special, but each of them make my day easier.

[Waze for the iPhone]

This app is what I've always wanted out of a turn-by-turn direction app on the iPhone, and it's not because it gives me directions. Waze helps drivers get around traffic by monitoring other Waze users on the roads and then suggesting alternate routes. The more drivers using Waze, the better all the users know how traffic is in real time. Trust me, it's awesome. Drivers can also report things like police speed traps, accidents and road construction giving other Waze users information on what is happening on the roads. When driving to and from school for my kids, it's proven invaluable.

There are loads of other location based features (like finding cheap gas) and there's a growing community of users trying to make the app better for everyone. I can't say enough good things about it, plus it's free to download and use.

Download Waze for iPhone at the iOS App Store

CES 2012: iCade iOS Video Game Controllers

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I wrote yesterday over at The Gentlemen of Gaming about how underwhelmed I was towards video game stuff at CES this year. In fact, the only stand-out thing I saw was the iPod, iPhone and iPad game controllers from iON Audio. The standard iCade has been out for a year now. (You may have seen it at your local Best Buy - it's the miniature video game cabinet that turns your iPad into a little old-school arcade system.) This year they've got three more, the best of which is the iCade Mobile (shown below).

The iCade Mobile is a Bluetooth controller for an iPhone or an iPod Touch. You just put your device in the center, pair it with the controller and you can play any compatible game. Currently there are 100 games that are compatible, but there is a public SDK out there for developers to use so they are expecting more games available by launch. It felt substantial and seemed like a pretty cool thing, especially if you've got a son or daughter who are big iOS gamers. At an MSRP of $79.99 it's not cheap, but it's a lot cheaper than a PSP or a Nintendo DS, especially if your kid already has an iPod Touch.

iCade Mobile, available for $79.99 in May from iON Audio.

(Oh, and for you parents of girls like me, Toys R Us is going to have an exclusive pink version so look out for that too.)

CES 2012: GoPro Wi-Fi BacPac + Remote

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I am really, really enjoying my GoPro video camera. For $200 to $300 you can get a great 1080p video camera that you can put almost anywhere. It will also take time lapse images which [I've been really enjoying lately][youtu]. At CES this year GoPro announced a really sweet accessory for their cameras.

The Wi-Fi BacPac + Wi-Fi Remote connects your GoPro camera to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch through a Wi-Fi network it creates. Once connected, you can see the live video output of the camera as well as control what it's doing.

It will also connect up to 50 GoPros at a time, giving you the ability to put these small cameras all over a shooting area and control them remotely.

Controlling 50 cameras might not be the use-case of the average person, but putting the camera in a hard to reach place and then controlling it with your iPhone opens up all kinds of possibilities creatively. Imagine putting the camera on your kid's skateboard helmet and then watching what he's doing live from his point of view. Or imagine attaching the camera to the hood of your car and turning it on periodically during long road trips. There is huge potential for cool things to do with it.

The WiFi BacPac will be available March of 2012 for around $100. It will work with the new HD Hero 2 cameras, as well as the HD Hero with limited capabilities (you can control the camera but you won't get live video streaming with the HD Hero).

Check it out at GoPro.com

CES_2012_GoPro_Wi-Fi_BacPac_Poster

Thank you Steve Jobs.

It's hard not to dip into hyperbole about a man who's life is so extraordinary it essentially defies hyperbole. But I really can't think of a contemporary person (whom I've never met) that has had more of an effect on my daily life than Steve Jobs. His death is a great loss and, selfishly I suppose, I hope that his legacy survives long enough for us to transition into a world void of his unrelenting drive to make things better for everyone.

I think the best way to remember him is to go back and watch his 2005 Stanford commencement address.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

The 5 Best iPhone Camera Apps (So Far)

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Next to email, web browsing and text messaging, the best thing about the iPhone 4 is the camera. (I'd even put it above the iPod and voice calling functions.) It really has invigorated my "real" photography and has me thinking all the time about making something creative with photos in ways I never have before.

My latest posts on Man of the House detail what I think are the five best camera and/or photography apps on the iPhone right now. A few months ago the list would have been different, and I'm sure in a month or two it will be different again.

Camera+
Camera + is the best picture taking application on the iPhone (that isn't made by Apple). It's got lots of features but doesn't get in the way of getting to taking pictures quickly. A steal at $0.99.

TiltShift Generator
Since I've written this piece, other apps have incorporated "tilt shift" functionality (namely Instagram), but this one is still one of my favorites. Blurring the focus on elements of an image can make your iPhone's camera look like you've got a thousand dollar lens on it.

Plastic Bullet Camera
The best app for making your iPhone's camera look like a crappy camera is Plastic Bullet. Like the the crappy plastic cameras it's very random, and often very awesome. And i's made by people who make insanely expensive professional video cameras, and it shows.

ToonPaint
ToonPaint turns your photo into an illustration. Even though I wrote about this app on Modern Day Dad already I had to include it in the top five. It's still lots of fun to use.

Instagram
I look at Instagram every day, and it's getting to the point where if I take a cool picture, I'm more likely to post it to Instagram than Facebook. I couldn't have imagined that would be true six months ago. It's got a great community, fun filters to put on your photos and lots of inspiring images to look at. And if you're on Instagram too look me up. I'm "thechrisford" in Instagram.

iPad App of the Week: Phaidon Design Classics

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Phaidon Design Classics is a book (or really, a three volume set) for design nerds like me. In it they curate and chronicle 999 objects that they deem are noteworthy for their innovation, influence and are "perfect in their design." The objects are numbered and ordered chronologically, starting with Chinese household scissors from 1663 and ending with the most modern products of today.

Though you could buy the three volume set at Amazon for $110.25, for $19.99 you can get all of that content and more on your iPad - plus an extra product (product 1,000 - the suitably chosen iPhone). It's an awesome collection of things both historical and current, allowing you to browse through not only the history of object design but human history as well.

The interface is fairly easy to understand, and while the clicking sounds it makes when you transition to a new object are kind of hokey, they do help you navigate through the enormous collection. You can also narrow down the number of objects shown by choosing categories or by running keyword searches on the titles and descriptions.

Running a search on "children" yields 49 results, among which there are some of the things you might expect, like the Mammut Chid Chair sold by Ikea, the Tripp Trapp Child's Chair from Stokke or the Eames Hang-It-All. There are also many objects that are taken for granted but are nevertheless incredibly innovative, like Crayola Crayons, Pez candy dispensers, the very first Jigsaw Puzzle (made in 1776), or the very first Teddy Bear (made in 1902). I must admit that I never really gave much thought to the Classic Red Wagon from Radio Flyer (pictured), but two paragraphs later not only do I know the history behind how it was designed and developed, but I appreciate it all the more.

Phaidon Design Classics for iPad by Phaidon Press, $19.99 from the iTunes App Store.

Great iPhone Apps for Kids: Cookie Doodle

CookieDoodle

Cookie Doodle for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch is a great app for kids for three big reasons:

  1. It's fairly easy for children 3(-ish) years and older to understand and use without constant help from Mom or Dad.
  2. Instead of a game that rewards with a score or unlocked levels, it encourages simple creativity. The reward is the cool thing you make.
  3. It's $0.99.

Cookie Doodle is an app that lets your kids go through all the steps of making a "virtual" cookie, from rolling out the dough, baking it, decorating it and eating it. Kids can pick from huge lists of types of dough, frosting, and other decorations. The app is also updated constantly for holidays, so right now for instance the app is configured for Valentine's Day cookies. But even if your child can't read yet, the interface is still simple enough to figure out how to use.

My daughters, especially my youngest (4 years old), love this app. Lots of apps for kids take a few minutes of their attention before they get bored, but when they're using Cookie Doodle they probably spend more time on it than any other app. There are so many choices and steps until the cookie is finished, that once they finally complete what they are working on they've already thought of another creation to make.

Trust me. Put it on your iPhone and hand it to them when you get to the restaurant, and before you know it you'll make it to when the food arrives with no drama. That is, unless they're fighting over who's turn it is to make the cookie.

Cookie Doodle by Shoe The Goose is available for $0.99 from the iTunes App Store.